Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald says authorities need to examine Fennelly report revelations that former garda commissioner Martin Callinan shredded up to 10 bags of “personal” files and was unable to provide a SIM card to his official work phone after retirement.
The Fine Gael minister confirmed the issues have caused cabinet concern after they were unearthed in the 300-page interim report into Ireland’s one-time most senior garda’s controversial departure in March 2014.
On Tuesday, the long-awaited report into the situation found that Mr Callinan asked a junior officer to dispose of between eight and 10 black plastic bags filled with “personal” files from his office when he suddenly left on March 25, 2014.
The papers, which Fennelly said included Mr Callinan’s 2013 diary, were subsequently shredded on April 4, 2014, and cannot be retrieved. The same report also found that a SIM card from Mr Callinan’s official Garda mobile phone is missing and believed to have been destroyed, meaning no records of texts or phone calls during a key political period can be examined. Mr Callinan, who told the report he regularly communicated by text, was initially unable to locate the mobile phone.
General information about the device held by the phone service’s operator — known as metadata — shows the phone continued to be used until April 16, 2014 — a month after Mr Callinan’s controversial retirement — before being cancelled on May 30.
Responding to ongoing questions about the missing documentation yesterday, Ms Fitzgerald said the issues will have to be “examined” and that answers must be provided.
“I do agree, we do need to examine that,” she said. “The gardaí will be looking at the Fennelly report and certainly I do need to see what the practice is and we do need to examine it. It would have been helpful if they [the files and phone records] were available, quite clearly.”
The comments came after Renua Ireland leader and former Fine Gael TD Lucinda Creighton said at her party’s inaugural pre-Dáil ‘think-in’ in Dublin on Thursday that she will make a formal complaint to gardaí about the situation if no action is taken. She said the matter “merits a full investigation” and that she will force one to happen if it does not independently occur.
“I’ll be making contact with the [new] Garda Commissioner [Nóirín O’Sullivan],” she said. “All I’m aware of are very, very serious allegations and if they are true then I think it absolutely merits a full investigation.”
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said on Thursday at the publication of a motion of no confidence in Taoiseach Enda Kenny over the wider Fennelly affair that the matter is “not the real target, not the real issue here, let’s be honest”.
However, responding to questions at the launch of five general election candidates for the newly formed Social Democrats, Catherine Murphy TD said the findings of the report are “deeply at odds with how it was spun the day it was published”.
Her party colleague and former Labour TD Roisin Shortall said the junior coalition member should have “stood up and spoken out” over the affair, adding Labour have a responsibility to ask “serious questions” of Fine Gael.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin justice spokesman Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has claimed the Fennelly report’s findings show the current policing authority bill needs to be amended to take account of still unresolved issues. “The policing authority bill in its current form is fatally flawed,” he said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved